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The Happy Valley of good and evil

Posted by Eric Wilbur, Boston.com Staff  July 13, 2012 10:23 AM

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There's a reason why we all have friends and enemies.

We all have a definitive intuition that alarms to not only what is right or wrong, but also what permeates our surroundings. We trust certain people with our livelihood, confident in the fact that they do the same. These vibes that we have for one another help build relationships and ultimately steer us away from individuals and groups that might not serve our best interests.

And then sometimes that same instinct plays against many, unfairly creating an inner battle between what's wrong and what's humanely decent.

Even if you have no correlation to Penn State, the molestation scandal has most likely hit you in some way. As we now know, thanks to the Freeh Report, the knowledge that Jerry Sandusky was abusing young men on the campus of Happy Valley was so widespread that it defies comprehension.

Joe Paterno knew. School officials knew. Janitors knew.

Yet nobody said a word, like a trio of primates covering their eyes, ears, and mouth.

I was an altar boy at my family's Catholic church for a good stretch in the 80's, a post that brought fulfillment for the most part, but also a sense of suspicion. Our pastor at the time was a large, booming presence, a highly-respected member of the community to the extent seen inside a cult, where a leader takes on a semi-God aura. But for me, something never struck right. He was stern, as I was taught - most likely by him - priests are supposed to be, dictating lessons without any semblance of dialogue. Never in my dealings with him did he ever seem evil, yet I always had a standoffish feeling whenever around him, a sense that only increased in the following years during my ensuing dealings with other priests who exhibited emotions I had been led to believe never existed in the vocation: Compassion, understanding, and God forbid, humor.

To me, he was suspect. To most of the rest of the parish, he was ready for sainthood.

About a decade ago, that priest found himself swept up in the horrific priest abuse scandal that rocked many facets of Massachusetts. He was relieved of duty and never heard from again. Just like that. 

Now, I haven't been around that church on a frequent basis for decades, but I can tell you the immediate reaction was one of complete silence. Silence as in not taking the time to be in denial. Ignore the noise and it will go away.

I can't stress this point more implicitly, but at no point in my time with this priest was I ever approached inappropriately, nor do I recall his interaction with any other acolyte to be something of question.

Then again, in the wake of his dismissal, nobody ever asked.

Nobody.

The whole event went down as if it were a sunny day at the zoo. Instead of outrage, there was an outage of any emotion, nobody wanting to ask the questions that needed to be asked for fear of truth. The victims? Who cared about them when there was the pressing matter of getting adjusted to a new pastor? Priorities and all.

Reality can be difficult. To deny it is only as easy as the time it takes for it to snap back at you.

The question as to whether or not Penn State should have a football program this season is irrelevant, and I only hope the NCAA comes to its only sane solution in time for the athletes to transfer if they so choose. Never in American sports history have we ever had to endure a scandal so filled with duplicitous cover-ups in order to protect our most treasured resource. Football.

Football.

I was never a big Joe Paterno fan either. Not because I knew anything about the man, but there was just ... something. It's human nature to choose and pick with whom we associate and trust with our inherent attachments, just as it is for whom we choose to root for in various forms of life.

You pick your friends for a reason. They are the ones who will always be there, no matter the circumstances.

Happy Valley is nobody's friend.

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About the Author

Eric Wilbur is a Boston.com sports columnist who is still in awe of what Dana Kiecker pulled off that one time in Toronto. He lives in the Boston area with his wife and three children. Comments and suggestions for the best Buffalo wing spots are encouraged.

Contact Eric Wilbur by e-mail or follow him on Twitter.

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